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Posted March 7, 2006

Book: Henri Nouwen: His Life and Vision
Author: Michael O’Laughlin
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2005, pp.172

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Through more than fifty books Henri Nouwen touched countless people with his compelling interpretation of Christian faith. His immense impact came in part from his willingness to draw deeply on his own experience, inviting readers to share his own spiritual journey. That journey led him from his home in Holland to the United States, from a series of prestigious academic posts to a Trappist monastery, then to live among the poor in Latin America, and finally to Canada, where he found his home at L’Arche Daybreak, living in community with disabled adults.

Nouwen’s life was itself a spiritual text that reflected the very themes he shared in his writings: the struggle between intimacy, community, and solitude; the gospel challenge to follow Christ in “downward mobility”; the question of how to make our life and death a gift to others; discovering the face of Christ in the world; and realizing our own identity as God’s beloved. Richly illustrated with 140 photos — including many never before published — Henri Nouwen: His Life and Vision provides a many-faceted portrait of one of the most beloved spiritual writers of our time.

Excerpts from the Book:

“What I am craving is not so much recognition, praise, or admiration, as simple friendship. There may be some around me, but I cannot perceive or receive it. Within me lies a deadness that leaves me cold, tired, and rigid. . . .I attended a small workshop about the basic meaning of being a Christian, but little of what was said reached my heart. I realized that the only thing I really wanted was a handshake, an embrace, a kiss, or a smile; I received none. Finally, I fell asleep in the late afternoon to escape it all.”

“You have been wounded in many ways. The more you open yourself to being healed, the more you will discover how deep your wounds are. . . .The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. . . . Your heart is greater than your wounds.”

“The real question before our death, then, is not How much can I still accomplish, or How much influence can I still exert? But, How can I live so that I can continue to be fruitful when I am no longer here among my family and friends?”

Table of Contents:

A low land by the sea
Child priest
World War II
Dutch theology
Cardinal Alfrink
Vatican II
University training
America beckons
Anton Boisen
The Menninger Foundation
Notre Dame
Problems in Holland
Two groundbreaking books
The teacher
Vincent van Gogh
A troubled heart, an artistic temperament
Latin America
A new agenda
Letters to Marc about Jesus
Back to basics
Learning from the disabled
Sister Sue Mosteller
Plunging into crisis
Celebrating life
Flying high
The return of the Prodigal Son
New York, New York
Confronting death and dying
The life of the beloved
Can you drink the cup?
A final sabbatical
The death of Henri Nouwen